For those over 65, people with a medical condition or pregnant women, catching flu can lead to serious complications. That’s why a flu vaccine is offered to these groups for free by the NHS every year.

These groups are particularly encouraged, as complications like bronchitis and pneumonia are more common, especially if they are also older.

If you fall into one of these ‘at risk’ categories, you can make an appointment at your GP to have your flu vaccination. What many people do not realise is that you can also have your NHS flu jab, for free, at most pharmacies.

During the winter period, our already busy hospitals, GP surgeries and pharmacies support more patients, so it’s important that we consider all of the options available before making a decision. This year I decided, as an over 65 patient, to visit my local pharmacy rather than my GP.

Pharmacists are experts and equally qualified as your GP to administer flu vaccinations.

I had to call and book an appointment, however this varies based on your chosen pharmacy; you can get a walk-in appointment at many pharmacies so it’s always worth calling ahead to find out.

There was a consultation room, where I was able to meet with my pharmacist, ask any questions I had, and have my vaccination in private.

I was given some tips to follow by my pharmacist: Relax your arm. Don’t look! And finally, breathe.

Having a flu vaccine was quick and easy. I did have a slight ache in my arm afterwards but this didn’t last long. I followed a few self-care tips, such as keeping movement in my arm to prevent it getting sore, and quickly felt fine. Overall, I think the benefits of the flu vaccine far outweigh such side-effects.

You can find out more about flu on our Newsroom, but here’s a bit of myth busting for you.

  1. You can catch the flu from the vaccine – MYTH

People assume that because they got sick after getting the vaccine, the flu vaccine caused their illness. This is not true. The flu vaccine is made from a dead virus that can’t cause infection. People who get sick after receiving a flu vaccination were going to get sick anyway.

  1. Only ‘at risk’ groups need to have the vaccine – MYTH

While it’s especially important for people in the ‘at risk’ groups to have a flu jab, everyone can benefit from being vaccinated. You should start by finding out if you are eligible for a flu vaccine on the NHS, in which case, a GP or local pharmacy will be able to support you.

If you are not eligible for an NHS vaccine then you may still be able to get a free vaccine. If you work in a social care setting then your employer is required to provide a free flu vaccine. Many workplaces, such as Derby City Council, also offer free vaccinations to staff.

If you are not eligible for a free vaccine, you can still protect yourself with a private flu vaccine at your local pharmacy. Although the cost varies from pharmacy to pharmacy, you should expect to pay up to £15 for a private flu vaccine.

  1. The flu is just a bad cold – MYTH

Flu symptoms are severe, come on very quickly and can include: a sudden fever – a temperature of 38C or above, aching body, feeling tired or exhausted, dry, chesty cough, sore throat, headache, difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, diarrhoea or tummy pain, nausea and being sick. Those with flu are usually unwell for 1-2 weeks.

Thousands of people die each year from flu, and many more are admitted to hospital. This most commonly happens with people over 65 years of age, children and those with long term health conditions.

  1. You can’t spread the flu if you’re feeling well – MYTH

Actually, 20% to 30% of people carrying the influenza virus have no symptoms. Just because you don’t feel ill, doesn’t mean you’re not carrying or spreading the illness.

  1. You don’t need to get a flu shot every year – MYTH

The influenza virus changes each year. So getting vaccinated each year is important to make sure you have immunity to the strains most likely to cause an outbreak.

  1. Flu can be treated with antibiotics – MYTH

Flu is caused by viruses – antibiotics only work against bacteria. People who are particularly vulnerable may be prescribed antiviral medicines to treat flu. Antivirals do not cure flu, but they can make you less infectious to others and reduce the length of time you may be ill.